By Bryan Ling (17S06C), Ernest Lee (17A01A) and Jeanne Tan (17A01B)
For what reasons do we speak? Last Thursday, Gavel Club aimed to answer precisely that. RI’s first open-mic event, a platform for students to voice their opinions, recount personal experiences and act as an outlet for passions, Reasons to Speak saw students stepping up and speaking out.
The wide variety of student speakers, free drinks, facilitation by gaveliers, and free muffins made this event an enjoyable yet thought-provoking one. Gavel was initially pessimistic about this event, ordering only a single box of muffins and setting up twenty chairs, much to the chagrin of the fifty-strong audience, as despite the oppressive heat and hour-long delay caused by speakers’ unforgiving timetables, an enthusiastic crowd had formed to listen to their peers speak.
The first speech was a piece of spoken word titled Dear Singapore, performed by a group from Community Advocates consisting of Noor Adilah (17S06B), Tim Minjie (17S05A), Samira Hassan (17S05A) and Deea K Dev (17S03L). It was not merely a single speech, but the combined efforts of the four who took turns to deliver original pieces of poetry. The authors regret that this article will not be able to convey the heartfelt pleas of the speakers, whose attitudes and tones varied from annoyed, to mournful, to outraged. Critiquing Singapore’s hypocrisy when it came to uncomfortable truths of our society , each speaker addressed society’s neglect of four groups – migrant workers, the mentally ill, sexual abuse victims, and the poor.
Next, Dao Duy Doan (16S03J) delivered a deeply personal speech about how to live and let go. On Forgiveness recounted an unfortunate event experienced by his family, who lost a house within months of transferring it to an uncle. Although it was gone, he did not respond to this with resentment, and revenge would lead to suffering. From his speech, it struck us that if one’s identity was based off knowing right from wrong, then simple actions like revenge only lead to false convictions. To forgive would thus be to dial back one’s feelings, say what we need to say, then move on- and this peace is liberating.
Russel Vaz (16S03J) took the stage next, grabbing everyone’s attention by beginning his speech sitting down. In his bluntly titled Challenging Respect, he questioned the norm of respect, especially in schools. Although he emphasized this was not an excuse to ignore all authority, his main premise that ‘contrived routines’ and performative displays were unreasonable expectations of society resonated with those unhappy with a world of guidelines and greetings. Rather, respect should be reserved for those who genuinely helped us, as job titles alone are not a good indicator of competency or character. Critical thinking and skepticism towards such norms, coupled with healthy awareness of our duties as students, citizens and human beings, are surely valuable skills one should possess.
All eyes turned to Sumana Prasad (17A01B) as she began with her unapologetically honest Being a Minority in Singapore. Sincere and passionate, and with a tinge of humour, she talked about her personal experiences and encounters with ignorance and racism in Singapore, ending off with a call to fight against ignorance and promote learning instead. It was her striking conclusion- “Singapore is my home: why do I have to try to make it feel like one?” that drove home the necessity of Singaporeans making a genuine effort to understand each and every member of society.
Yawei Han and Tan Ning (16S03S) targeted a subject most can relate to, by promising to help struggling students approach their crushes. Confidence, defined by them as the amount of control one thinks they can wield, was the central focus of their speech. They claimed that reciprocity would lead to being more approachable and likeable, and that we can prepare confidence to change our situations. Although these premises seemed intuitive, their distillation into simple principles one can apply in daily life were useful.
Closing off the student speakers, Sambhavi Rajangam (16S06K) challenged the common saying “Jack of all trades, master of none – often better than master of one”. Through an amusing story about a titular “Jack” and “Master”, Sambhavi argued that though being a Jack of all trades might allow you to stay afloat longer than a master who can’t swim, it ultimately won’t save you from further storms of change. A good mix of the two is thus required, and beyond simply having a range of skills we must also be further able to apply our expertise to various different areas.
Last but not least, Raffles Gavel’s Teacher-in-Charge Ms Magno ended the event with a zing. In her closing address, she talked about her personal experiences teaching public speaking in China, and about the importance and value of public speaking.
When asked about the event, member of organising committee Nicole Yow Wei (16S03J) had this to say. “It truly was an honor to handle the heartfelt passions of our participants. […] The enthusiastic audience Reasons to Speak drew was deeply encouraging, and it’s foreseeable that [the] spontaneity of such positive exchanges between Rafflesians will soon be an indelible aspect of what makes our Raffles days golden.”
Despite being a CCA built around public speaking, Gavel has not enjoyed a strong presence in RI — a fact that was acknowledged at the start of Reasons to Speak. This first attempt to bring the platform of public speaking out of the realm of weekly training sessions and its success as an event is surely the launchpad to Perhaps events like these. Legitimized by school support, but still undeniably Rafflesian in terms of voice, scope and audience, this will hopefully serve as an avenue for bold orators to articulate opinions, shape hearts and minds, and change the world one speech at a time.
Edit: This article has been edited to include the names of the organising committee.